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7 RAW LESSONS FROM 2016 - Part 1

Looking back on a year of God moments and learning how to be a better disciple.

We cannot live in the Kingdom of God and

leave our way of life untouched and unchanged.

A Year of God Moments...

Well I guess I might as well throw my two cents in the ring of looking back commentary on 2016. I guess I might as well unpack some thoughts rolling around in my head this morning and give you some insight to what makes me click. I might as well just give you some real and raw thoughts about how God moved in my (our life) this past year. You might not like them or understand them, but I will simply say to you today.... You cannot walk closely with God and not be changed or challenged. I read this quote today: "We cannot live in the Kingdom of God and leave our way of life untouched and unchanged." 2016 has forever impacted our lives - I hope that we can begin to impact the lives of others in 2017.

#1 WHAT TRULY MOTIVATES YOU?

Matthew 11:28 NLT

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and

carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Finding rest in 2016 seemed almost impossible. It seemed like our lives were always moving at a break neck pace. It seemed like the first part of the year was an emotional rollercoaster as the day approached for the adoption of Roman and Adia's final stages. As the summer moved by quickly with a long over due family vacation our time seemed to just speed up. I thought we were to find rest?!?

As the fall approached - so did our new kids! What a joy and what a time of unanticipated, overwhelming anxiety. I would be telling you a lie if I did not tell you that adopting these two little ones has been a complete blessing, but with that blessing has come a lot of challenges and heartache. We have (and are still) dealing with emotional barriers, attachment, bursts of rage, sudden times of crying and other more complicated issues. I would not change our decision, but I often at times find myself questioning what I can handle and why God would think it was a good idea for our family to expand in such a way.

I know that adopting is a blessing and I'm forever blessed because of it. But what about that rest in Matthew 11:28 that Jesus was promising. What about Jesus taking my "heavy burdens" and "coming to him". I can't figure out why we have been given more "burdens" by being obedient. We have more physical burdens! More financial burdens! More spiritual burdens! Where is the REST! 

If you don’t know what truly motivates you, you really don’t know what will satisfy you - Tanya Tarr

I have come to figure out that finding REST in Christ isn't about what I perceive as "burdens" at all. Finding rest is really about knowing what motivates you and allowing God to change your motivations. What motivates you? What is the driving force in your life? Ours was to be obedient to a call by God. That obedience didn't promise us immediate blessing - it really wasn't about me at all. It was about two little kids in Africa. When I realize that I'm motivated by God's call and not by my circumstances - I can learn to be content and then I will know what rest is. I'm still learning!

#2 SERVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART

Joshua 24:13-15 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 I gave you land you had not worked on, and I gave you towns you did not build—the towns where you are now living. I gave you vineyards and olive groves for food, though you did not plant them. 14 “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

What does it mean to "serve God with all your heart"? I can tell you that its not easy because my heart and most likely your heart tends to wander. Our hearts tend to go where our desires go. Our desires go where our minds go. And our minds our always being filled with bigger and better ways of living and doing life.

Romans 12:1-2 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b] 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

So I've realized that serving isn't about the "doing" or the "action", but serving is about the "why" and the "who".

Over the last 12 months, I've tried to do all the right things and live the right way. At times I've felt like I've done a pretty good job of accomplishing this mission to serve the Lord. But in trying to "serve" I have failed. Why? We fail (not that I've failed all the time, but at times) we have failed because we were "serving" for personal benefit - what I would get out of it - the way it would make me feel - the feelings I would get from others. I had to ask myself, did I adopt for me or for those two little kids? And at times, I'm not sure!

What I know is that when I serve well - I'm serving for others. I'm serving with no strings attached. I'm serving at the personal cost and sacrifice of my time, my desires, my benefit, my resources for the benefit of Jesus and God's Kingdom. In those times, I'm doing what I'm suppose to do for the sake of the Kingdom. So in 2017 - I challenge you to serve for the Kingdom. Be a part of a church and do it for the sake of Jesus.

#3 Try to Please Everybody

“I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.” - Herbert Swope

What I've discovered this past year is that no matter the number of times I've preached a sermon and someone has told me what a great sermon that was and it spoke to them directly and impacted them personally - it's not enough. What I've discovered is that it doesn't matter what has been done in the past - we truly do live in a "what have you done for me lately" culture. Sunday is always coming and a new sermon is due every week. It should be better than last week. It should speak to everyone on a spiritual level while unpacking deep truths about God in 30 minutes. It should point people to Jesus and at the same time convict people of their sin. It should not step on my toes and it should make me feel good, but it can't be just fluff and topical advice. It should have humor, whit, depth, application, truth, accountability and most of all should be presented in a way that keeps the attention of people for we are easily distracted.

I discovered that singing songs on Sunday should be for a multigenerational congregation that expects to have their favorite song sung in such a way that brings up memories of their childhood at the same time singing songs that are familiar, easy to sing, heard on the radio, inspirational, done with excellence, without bias and filled with Jesus.

I discovered that I must lead well. I must listen better. I should speak less, but talk more clearly, without rambling, but yet speak with wisdom and teach. I should care more about those not at church. I should get those at church involved more and train them to live for Jesus. I am to spend time greeting the new visitor as I am at the same time not ignoring those who are not so new. I know that I should be a preacher, teacher, mentor, chaplain, friend, pastor, consoler, guide, and oh yeah - dad and husband.

What I've learned is that it is impossible to please everyone. It's impossible to be all those things. It's impossible to do the right thing for all the people all the time. It's impossible to say the right things and live the right way so that people see Jesus. The truth is that it's impossible to do these things. It's impossible to be ALL THINGS to ALL PEOPLE; ALL THE TIME. But what about what Paul said:

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.

What I've learned through my family and our working through the past few months of transition - it's OK!

Paul said that he had become a "slave" to all people. Simply he put the lives of others ahead of his own. He would do whatever it took to win some to Jesus. He would sacrifice whatever was needed to be the best. It wasn't about what "Paul wanted", but it was about showing people - Jesus. Church isn't a place to have all my needs met - it's a place to worship Jesus. Church isn't about what I get from it - it's about my personal responsibility as a follower of Jesus.

If you want to fail - then try to please everybody!

I don't have to be ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE - that's not my job; it's not my burden to carry. So in 2017; I'm going to do the best I can when I can. I'm going to follow the prompting of the Spirit when it calls and I'm going to do the best to follow Jesus - FIRST. People will think what they want to think. I realized that being a family isn't about what I get from it. Being family isn't always easy; nor is it fun. Being family is about making each other better - filling in the holes and doing the very best you can - and that's enough....family knows who you really are!

I will still struggle with pleasing people - that's just who I am - but I am working on fixing that. I hope that you will find that following Christ isn't about making people happy - its about listening to the Spirit and knowing that people are not always who they say they are. Our lives are really only an audience of ONE - so live in such a way that you know who you are and continue to grow as a leader and as a human being.

If learning is an important part of life, then it follows humility as an essential attribute as well. After all, you can’t learn new things if you cannot admit you’re a work in progress. Be open to recognizing your own faults, so you can grow as both a leader and a human being. - Forbes Magazine, December 2016.

Colossians 2:12 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

To be continued....

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